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Charity to provide essential services to prison leavers released on Friday

St Giles’ Trust, along with their project partners, has been awarded £456,558.30 for the initiative from the Ministry of Justice through the Prison Leavers Project.

The new initiative will provide essential support services to leavers from two prisons in Yorkshire who are released on a Friday and who otherwise would face a lack in support across their first weekend in the community. 

The charity has formed partnerships for the project with BME service provider Touchstone, West Yorkshire Community Chaplaincy and Wakefield Council’s Liaison and Diversion Service. 

It will see the two prisons involved, HMP Wealstun and HMP Leeds, providing the charity with a list of leavers with “complex needs” encompassing anything from drug and mental health problems through to those with a history of non-compliance or who are released with a lack of accommodation. 

The charity will then make contact with leavers one week prior to their release to introduce them to their support workers and work out a customised plan. 

Support options available to leavers will include accommodation, contact with drugs services, providing food for the weekend and workshops on things like money management or an orientation to the local area. 

The funding that has been allocated will cover the project for 16 months, with regular reviews through delivery. 

Iain Hadley, St Giles’ Yorkshire manager, said: “Men and women who leave prison on a Friday has been an on-going challenge on the basis that most services operate Monday to Friday, nine to five. 

“They find they come out to 48, 72 hours where there’s no support available to them. Quite often, they get drawn back into what they were doing before either for safety or because they haven’t got a compelling alternative.” 

“The choices are to struggle through that period of time, or to go back to common negative influences - they might get back into offending, they might sort out accommodation at a cost, for example with sexual favours. It could be a number of things. 

“If you think about someone who has been imprisoned for a length of time - they’re told when to get up, when to go to bed, you’ve got healthcare, food and a set regime. Suddenly, you come out of prison [...] you’ve got freedom, choice, you’ve got space, you can do what you want and actually it’s a massive challenge.” 

Through the project, leavers will be given the support they need across their first 10 days or so and then signposted and supported through back to mainstream services. The charity will then check in with them on day 15 and 21 after release. 

St Giles' Yorkshire Assistant Manager Kelly Ormston said: “Many people released from prison on a Friday face a tough challenge to get all the support that they need in place before the weekend. Getting all the correct support in place is especially difficult on a Friday, so funding for this exciting project is hugely welcome.” 

“There will be times when you’ll see someone walk out of prison so motivated and keen to do the right thing, they walk out the prison gate and suddenly you’ve got two options in front of you. Option A is to find a mentor and get some support, Option B risks leading them back to what they came to prison for in the first place.” 

Iain Hadley explained that key to their model was that many workers in the charity have lived experience - meaning they can use their own experience to help with building trust and understanding. 

“Like anybody in life, if you keep getting let down or you’re not achieving in life, you feel disheartened and that’s what lived experience and people who have been there is important.

“What we’re trying to demonstrate here, is there are two options [...] either we look at flexible working and re-think Monday to Friday nine to five, or prisons and courts use some of the powers available to them and stop releasing people on a Friday.” 

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